Imagens das páginas

His armies were buried amid the snows our humanity to forget injuries and reof Russia, and could not be restored. member services. Thus we palliate France lost her gallant defender. The those great mistakes and crimes which sturdy veterans of Jena and Austerlitz Napoleon, intoxicated by unparalleled and Eylan had perished, and there were successes, committed against society in none to take their place. The mighty his latter days, and dwell on those early usurper was defenceless. He lost the and magnificent feats of heroism which game in which were staked his hopes of restored the glory of an afflicted nation. universal empire.

Napoleon, as a great man, claims to Then the nations rose a second time, be judged by his services, not by his and this time they were successful, for defects and faults. The question for us they fought a crippled hero, whom the to solve is, whether his undoubted serelements, not man, had beaten. The vices should counterbalance the great battles of Dresden and Waterloo finished crimes which must be laid at his door. the military career of Napoleon, and he And when we have settled this hard and was sent to a lonely rock in the ocean- knotty point, we may indulge in a few to meditate and to die. The greatness reflections such as philosophical history of his fortunes was only exceeded by the suggests. bitterness of his humiliation. Never Napoleon's career teaches the vanity before, in the history of mankind, has of military glory, when warfare is not mortal climbed so high, never before did carried on in defence of the great perhero fall so low. Yet he died, a proud manent rights of mankind, and also pharisee, justifying his courses, without speaks volumes of the retributive justice recognizing the arm which had visited of the overruling Power. But we will him with its chastising rod.

not dwell on these truths. The verdict

of enlightened humanity is yet to be * A single step into the right had made

given, although we think that this verdict This man the Washington of worlds betrayed ; must have been anticipated by the lonely A singl: step into the wrong has given

exile at St. Helena, when the curses of His name a doubt to all the winds of heaven." widows and orphans were wafted over

oceans and continents to the rock on It is, however, one of the virtues of which he was chained.


[ocr errors]



watchfulness against remembering either

their matter or their manner. There is a ICKENS once described us as frightful eruption of literary bumors upon

tongue-y people." The pbrase was ex- us. Every person who has indited words pressive. Our American Democracy is a gift enough to make a book, straightway makes & of tongues. Our whole company prophecies book. The thoughts may already have flutin a Pentecostal outburst of intellectual, tered before the public eye, upon the wings freedom which is quite inconceivable to the of a magazine, or the more transient pinions Earopean mind, over-ridden as it is with of a newspaper. Perhaps the material is so despotism in government, fashion, intellect vapid or so ragged that the author stultifies and business. Accordingly, everybody himself by broadly avowing carelessness or writes. In newspapers, magazines, or incompetence in his preface. Even farragos books, an astonishingly large proportion of disjointed newspaper paragraphs, with no of the entire population aspires to speak to more coherence or significance than the bis or her fellow-meu with the presumed sandy ridges which the Scottish wizard set emphasis of set publication ; insomuch that bis troublesome servant-fiend to twist into print now being almost the rule, publica- ropes, must needs be concatenated into a tion is not emphatic. Ninety in the hun- book. If the words have been written, dred of books now published are such as do they must be worth printing. It would not. actually require to be read with strict do at all to have written them out for

nothing. Therefore away they go to the the privilege of writing the notices of it in printer.

an influential paper. These notices are A literary friend had prepared for public usually not unfavorable. If a publisher cation a short pamphlet, discussing the spies an adverse verdict upon some work of matter of which we complain, which, bow. his issuing, his first question-according to ever, we persuaded him to withhold. We the trade-instinct-is, not whether the man apprehended ill results to our friend's criticised honestly, and what are his abilities, literary success, if he should be recognized but, wbat was his motive for criticising unas the utterer of such virulent and unjusti- favorably? What personal spite has he? fiable truths against literary men and lite- How have we slighied him ? What rival rary things. Yet our friend spoke truth; has hired him? What favor does he want? except that he spoke it too bluntly. We I proclaim to all the inhabitants of the have his permission to extract a few para- land that they cannot trust to what the graphs, which we cull from the milder and periodicals say of new books. Instead of more genial portions of his diatribe : being able by reading the criticism to judge

“ American literature is degenerating into of the book, it is now necessary to read a vast stream of milk and water. A Great the book in order to judge of the critiLiterary Apostacy is demoralizing it. Au- cism. thors write, not because they have a true “ Perhaps I may not unreasonably give or a beautiful word to say, and because the a sly kiek to another, but now dying impoestrus of their conception drives them to sition. This is the great blast of advertisespeak, but because they see with the sharp ments with which every successive book is little eyes of business men that the popular driven forth to life ; as if shot out of a prothroat is agape for such or such a morsel, digious wind-gun. Every book is The and that they can prepare the morsel. Greatest Book of the Age. Twenty ThousA whole book to proclaim the Apotheosis and Copies are Ordered in Advance of of Humbug! A whole book whose staple Publication. Fifty Thousand Copies are is the unblusbing narrative, by a discarded Sold in Two Weeks after Publication. suitor, of the details of his chase! What a There is a Tremendous Excitement. Everyculmination of literary immorality!

body is Talking About It. " It is no impertinent inquiry, whether · Newspapers manufacture the peculiar publishers are justifiable in introducing little epigrammatic remarks that appear such works to the public. Shall it be well in quotation; such as A Great Book ; claimed that the question of morality is for Full of true Genius; The most Delightful the author to settle, and not for the pub- Thing we ever Read ; Should be on Every lisher? No, indeed. If there is only one Table ; Drawn with a Master Hand ; and question for the publisher to ask (namely, the like lingo. These pin-wheels of adula• Will it sell ?'), then there is no other for tion, again, are worked off in the advertiseany man to ask; and poison or rum, or ments, and the 'pensive public' buys, printed filth may be manufactured and whether it list or list not. vended, provided only that somebody will * This factitious excitement is arranged buy.

somewhat as follows. First, 'advance “The men who criticise books are the copies' are sent to the papers. From third person of this unlucky trinity. Read among their notices, the available ones are a criticism upon a book. Can you presume picked out as above mentioned. Sometimes that the critic has read the book? Re- mysterious little announcements have been member the recantations that set back in received in advance, to tickle curiosity. an absurd reaction, down the laudatory Then come the regular advertisements, throats of great and small the critics who blazing with recommendations. These praised Hot Corn.' Never, in this world, little machinations usually secure a fair were so many words eaten before in so amount of orders. The advertisements small a time. There are publishers who immediately announce that, owing to enorprepare notices after their own hearts-not mous pressure of orders, publication day is generally very condemnatory--for their unavoidably postponed. Country bookselown books, and have them inserted bodily lers, hereupon, say to themselves, Must be in compliant columns. Sometimes the something rich. Great book, undoubtedly. gentleman upon the strength of whose Must have some.' And they send new recommendations a book was printed, has orders, or enlarge the old. Then, after the

publication, this torrent of orders, so arti- have the Czar imported at once, with his ficially raised and dammed, is let loose all knout in his pocket. We cannot legislate at once, and glorified by the disingenuous against Balderdash. Nor is he wiser in his brag that so many Thousand Copies were invectives against advertisements. People sold in a week. This again tends to make who fight against windmills bave ever been all the outsiders believe in the book, and overtbrown, from Don Quixote downwards. again the orders come in.

Suppose advertisements do offer unreliable * Thus it appears that the writers and statements ? The more brazen-faced the pablishers of books are leagued in a great humbug, the more danger to the brain-pan company, who for their own selfish ends are of him who runs his head against it. He cramming all sorts of trash into the public who begins thus, would soon be found abmouth, only provided that the foolish par- sorbed in the useful task of strenuously chaser will pay for it. They do not hesi- refuting those popular legends which one tate to break down wbatever of healthy may desery on fences and sidewalks, and tone remains in the American mind, or to which put forth the groundless claim that degrade still further its already sufficiently “We all use Sniddicker's Liver Pills and low standard of morals. The sole and sin- Worm Syrup." Yet there is a body of docgle desideratum is money.

trine, a Corpus Juris, a system of ethics ** And the equally disgraceful comple concerned about literature. We may promentary truth must be stated; that the perly venture a few suggestions towards it, nation is not honest enough nor intelligent although it may be long before any theory enough to choose between the good and the of Literary Ethics shall be established and bad; even to that extent that a certain recognized. percentage of the claims of the advertise- "Thought is free," ever since the days ments, of overwhelming demand, are acta- of Caliban, that down-trodden man and ally true.

brother. By the way, has any one in“For these evils, perhaps there is no vestigated the morals of the relations beremedy. It may be that men of pure hearts tween the foreign Prospero and his native and high aspirations must stand still and subjects ? Is not the Tempest the Epic of see their country-men and country-women

“Sam?" go sliding down the gutter into which the Speech is free, also, in our Democratic authors and " the trade” have been decoy country, at least to any man who fears ing them. One is almost tempted to invoke neither enmity nor contempt, and who the majestic interference of the law; to seeks neither office nor influence. Perhaps wish that the publication of a useless or we have as much free speech as heart could ill-written book might be made a high mis- wish. For literary utterances, properly so demeanor against the State, and that a called, we have. Yet it does by no means smart fine and imprisonment should be follow that every man has a right, by fair meted out to all concerned. That a Board means or foul, with indiscriminate unscruof Censors should be appointed from among pnlosity, to gather other people's dollars the facile principes of American literature, for his words, or to waste their time in the who should have heavy salaries, and much examination of them. Consider the “poets honor, as entrusted with the charge of the of America”--that vast and undistinguishAmerican intellect and morals; and who able throng. How many men and women should make thorough prelibation of all are there who might write prose, both true compositions intended for publication, and and good; but who will aspire to rise into give the exclusive authorization of such that high imaginative sphere, the bright publication ; any book published without it poet-kingdom of the Vates, and who thereto subject the parties to condign punish- upon only utter nonsense. They can talk ment under the law."

fair common sense ; but they endeavor, Our pamphleteering friend goes on to with frantic efforts, to chant in the choir of Fary and amplify his statements and argu- the poets; but their effusions compare with meuts in a manner much too spicy for our the songs of the “bards sublime," as the use. Yet no honest man can deny that nauseous contortions and gibberings of a there is a very large share of truth in what high-tragedy rage, with the still and awful be says. He is quixotic, of course, and fire, the great waves of divine inspiration, impracticable. As for his Board of Cen- and the mighty utterances, of the older sors and his legislation, we might as well and the later prophets. It is in vain to

assert the Democracy of Genius, and to Thomas De Quincey. How much less any claim that because “all men are born free “mere miscellaneous person !" and equal," in some sense, that therefore Not that we would have no good new they are free of the poets' guild, and equal books. We have no desire to gag any in songful power. They may as well living thinker or writer, foremost or hindclaim that they each bave as much property most, unless some good not anti-democratic as any body. How useless! We know, be- gag could be found for the hindmost! Nor cause we see with our own eyes, that they do we advise any one to refrain from readhave it not. If it has descended to them, ing new books until he is through with the or if they have earned it, they have it, and old. they are acknowledged to have it. Pos- Not any obstruction from without do we session and use are the only evidence. As- desire to impose npon written speech ; we sertion is needless with them, and without desire no Statute for the Prevention of them. So of the crowd of rhymers in the Trash, nor the appointment of an intellecland. If the heritage of power has de- tual Excise Board of Censors. We only scended upon them, or if intense labor has demand that whatever is said shall be sige lifted them to the possession of it, be it so. nificant of something; and of something But if not, wby will they so baselessly not bad. We only appeal to the conassert it?

sciences of the authorial band. To them And there is a word which needs to be only we cry. Perhaps, indeed, we might as said to all authors, poets or prosemen. well cry to everybody; for who knows how

If the Author opens before the eye of his many in every village in the country, and in readers, old or young, the present strength the solitary houses too-as from Henry or the future hope of our nation, a volume Thoreau's seven dollar palace in the woods of extenuations of lying or cheating-if he -have already written to publishers; or or (shameful even to think of!) she opens have by them, in secret nook, piles of before those eyes gaudy pictures of guilt or scratched paper, their tickets for immorimpurity—if he shall praise folly, or laugh tality--or at the very least are meditating, the laughter of fools over a funny or a altá sub mente repôstum, what the coming profitable wickedness, or a mean trick—then years shall make known? such author shoulders a burden which will Oh, eager friend ! Have you, truly, one day gather a crushing weight, when anything to say? Be sure-quite sure; responsibility for tainted souls and rotten and if not, exercise the very utmost of your lives shall be accumulated therein.

talent for silence. If you are not very sure It needs no long argument to exhibit that you have plenty of silver words for us, that point. Argument would be misplaced give us the golden silence which everybody with those who deny it. But there follows has. another, whose assertion may seem superflu- But, if yea--and we most gladly admit ous or useless, but which is, nevertheless, that very many souls, in our bounding and as true as the first.

superabounding American freedom, have a Literature should be cream.

word to say-if yea, Give us the CREAM. We have enough and to spare, of new There is an enormous pile of good matter milk and skim-milk, and buttermilk and to read. The thoughtful are wearied and white-oak cheese. What a mass of printed discouraged at the mass. And oh, friend ! matter there is in the land ! By what do not superinject thereon any more of hundreds of tons is it yearly increased ! dilute value. Is it not already wretched Handbills, circulars, dailies, weeklies, enough to see so many wbo might be monthlies, quarterlies, annuals, pamphlets, gathering golden crowns of thought from books. For how many hundred years have books of lofty beauty and truth, grubbing the strongest thinkers indited the best of and scratching about among the muck their thoughts on every subject within the below? Will you swell the turbid stream? field of human investigation and out of it Think, if you think at all, clearly and care—and eft them in print! Who has read a fully. Speak, if you must speak, clearly fraction of what is already printed, and and briefly. And as you have in your soul worth reading ? Not the enormously omni- one single mustard seed of truth or selfvorous bookworm Magliabeccbi; not the respect, don't buzz out before us and cryathletic scholarly strength of Sir William nor let your publisher buzz and cry for Hamilton ; not the indefatigable explorer you—Behold The Greatest Book of the Age !

Unless false pretences and exaggeration We became affected with secret grief. are legitimate helps in selling horses, dry. For, on careful reflection, we could not regoods and real estate, they cannot be legiti- member to bave heard any American exult mate helps in selling books. Therefore it or admire at the physical strength or manis right that publishers should be limited by ly beauty of any other American, except public opinion to a fair and honorable the eulogist were a farmer, a mechanic, a statement of the merits of their books. boxing-master or a boy in a gymnasium. Nor can a publisher be jastified in issuing Thinking further, we failed to recollect an unwortby publication as valuable, any that any of our leading intellects, this side more than a jockey in selling a spavined of the Atlantic, have been enthroned in horse as sound.

notably noble bodies. John Neal is, or was, Lastly: The critic, by supposition, stands we believe, athletic and active, and skillas an impartial judge, between the book ful at manly exercise. Theodore D. Weld, and the reading community. His business at one time well known as an energetic is either to state the contents of the book, anti-slavery lecturer, was, until injured by or to state the merits of the book, or (as an accident, one of the most herculean men We believe) to state both. We need not in the United States. The incident, although say more than that his work ought to be it has been told before, will bear repeating, done honestly. He ought to read the as an instance of great endurance. Mr. book, and then tell what it is, and what is its Weld was travelling in Ohio, during the value, honestly. That is all.

winter, when, either by the upsetting of a coach, or by the stumbling of his horse, he

was thrown, at midnigbt, into a torrent of CORRESPONDENCE.-A lady complains to width. Down this he floated, swimming at

ice, snow and water, of unknown depth and us as follows:

right angles to the stream, and shouting for .Perhaps mortals, and especially

aid, until at last, but not before his men, have a dispensation to be inconsistent. But hands were too helpless to permit him to Major Wherrey, who was horrified at Horripitts climb, be reached a tree, by whose branches and grieved at the German, and nevertheless could

he just held his chin above water during an find it in his heart to lade out strong punch to his friends, and to swig and tipple all the remainder of

hour and a half, until help came. When the bowl, in company with his anti-Teutonic sympa- taken out he was stiff and nearly senseless, thizer, Mr. Barnard, appears to me to transcend the and only recovered after a long and severe allowable limits even of male aberrations. Is dancing worse than drinking? Is the dizziness of the

illness. Very few men would have been valtz nore wicked than the dizziness which our two

able to breast such an ice-flood, or to stir a old, masculine prudes discovered in the dregs of muscle, or even whisper, after fifteen their liquor ? Or was Major Wherrey vexed because minutes immersion. Bessy Wacklestead and the narrator .polked on his

But neither of these can be ranked boots,' and was he covering his wrath in hypocrisy? My dear sir, do you propose in this tacit way to among our leading writers. sanction, and even to recommend the everlasting Over the water, people are stronger. and disgusting punch bowl, which reeks in the Christopher North was one of the best middle of Dickens' stories? It seems to me that our American writers, if they must copy, could select

wrestlers, boxers, runners and leapers in some better study than this. Punch and cigars are

Great Britain. William Cobbett was as behind the age. We do not want any medieval strong as a bull. Wordsworth was as good follies in Putnam."

a walker as any man in England. Sir

William Hamilton has been a man of most Far be it from us to endorse punch or punch-bowls ; we ingenuously confess that Scott was an uncommonly vigorous walker

remarkable physical strength. Walter we have no sufficient answer to the lady's and rider. Lord Byron's powers of physicomplaint. Perhaps Major Wherrey, or

cal exertion and endurance are well Tom, will put in a plea in the case.

known, although, like Sir Walter Scott, he was slightly deformed in one foot.

Now there is a great truth in the old We beard an enthusiastic young English- heroic notion of pride in physical strength man describe Roualeyn Gordon Cumming, and beauty. There is a positive and actual the Soutb African ramrod-Nimrod. Said pleasure in the mere quiet consciousness of be, “ If you could only see what a noble possessing a strong arm, a strong leg and a arm he has !"

powerful chest. What man would not take

« AnteriorContinuar »